Yes, it’s just after January 1st. Yes, I have embarked on another list of
resolutions rebellions. I have to admit. There is a bit of a public vs private message here. On my blogs and in my status updates, I write about body acceptance and loving oneself. In my mind – not written down – I promise myself that this is the year I’ll lose weight. Just a little. Okay, a lot.
It’s the struggle, I believe, of being a body-positive feminist and being the product of a system that has, since I was born, told me I needed to be slim, thin, and attractive.
I started dieting when I was six years old. I don’t remember who told me, but someone said to me that I had a big butt. I remember that person pointing out a picture of me where my butt curved out from my back.
I was six.
It didn’t end there.
For as far back as I can remember, I have tried to be thin.
Now, as a practitioner in an elementary/middle school. I can admit this here – there were times when I told my mother I was too sick to go to school. She would leave for work with my dad. When I knew they were gone, I changed into workout clothing and spent the next three hours exercising. Jane Fonda and Gilad were my babysitters for those next few hours.
I skipped school — learning, engagement — so that I could be thin.
I was twelve.
I had battled negative thoughts about my body up until the time I was pregnant with my first child. That was the turning point. I saw the power of my body as being more than just a shell. It had become a miracle. It had made life. It was capable of more than just leg lifts and pushups.
But, I became pregnant when I was twenty-seven years old. I had spent 21 of those years believing my body was not enough. I spent 21 of those years believing that my body was something to constantly change — a goal for which to strive.
And, here again, in January 2016, I started to think about all the ways I wanted to
get healthy change my body.
The other day, I caught this Melissa Harris-Perry segment where she commits her letter of the week to Oprah Winfrey. We all know that Oprah Winfrey has had a public journey with her weight. Back when she lots tons of weight in the 1990s, I bought her audio cassette and listened to it on repeat while running on the track. So, not only do I know her journey well, it inspired me to want to change my own body.
But, listening to Melissa Harris-Perry changed me today. As Oprah starts her video with “Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be,” I know what that’s like. I know what it’s like to wonder if the woman on the inside matches the woman on the outside. I know what it’s like to wonder if people perceive body size as an indicator of who you are and what you have done.
As I start my busy travel season, I’m already having thoughts of “What should I wear?” or “Will those people think I’m too fat to be smart?” Will they think to themselves, “She’s the person we paid all this money to come and talk to us?” I’m not joking. I actually think that shit.
But, MHP reminds Oprah that “Oprah, you are already are the woman so many want to be.”
There is nothing Oprah would have done better with a size 25 waist. And, though I have, indeed, gained weight over the past few years, I have also accomplished more in this world than I ever dreamed of attempting.
I know that my contributions to eradicating racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and inequity in our communities, classrooms, and hearts could be done at any weight and body size.
I know that my research and scholarship and (so close to achieving) earning my doctorate were not dependent on whether I was a size 6 or a size 16. I wrote a badass dissertation, and it wouldn’t have turned out better if I was 50 lbs lighter.
I know that my writing, blogging and consulting that have comforted women, men, children and families who are facing cancer were not affected by my weight gain in the past year.
I know that my continued learning about the lives of others, and working towards allying with people, were not hindered by my size 16 pants or my XL shirt size.
I know that my strength to call out microaggressions both in my life and wherever I go do not diminish when the scale goes up.
I know that my work at the national level providing leadership in communities that I care deeply about are not affected by my dress size.
I also know that the effects of racism can kill me. I know that the stress of working in justice can increase my blood pressure. I know that the time consuming acts of traveling to different schools, flying, driving, and crossing over time zones takes a toll on my body. Because of this, I certainly will not let racism take hold of my health. I will strengthen my body and mind in order to fight the daily fight that I have been called to do.
But, my weight? Nah. I have already achieved more weighty goals in my life than I ever imagined that I — a single person — was capable of doing.
My weighty goals — those of love, compassion, justice, humanity, intelligence, education — those are driven not by my waist, but my belief that there isn’t time to waste.
Peace, love and achieving who we are meant to be,